The Boy who saw The Virgin - The Bronx Miracle

Timeline of events found at the heresy-hunter.blogspot



Below is a day to day reconstruction of events, based on information gleaned from periodicals, including the [video pt1, pt2.] interview with Mr. Vitolo.

Day 1 October 29, 1945 After dinner young 9 year old Joseph Vitolo, Jr. nicknamed "Jo Jo", departed his home at 3194 Villa Avenue to play with children in the area. The spot, just 70 or so meters away his home, was adjacent to a rock ledge/hill, nearly 5 meters in height, on the west side of the Grand Concourse roadway. About 20 children were present. Joseph knew at least five of them: John Bruno (9), Anna Ronca (8), Enid Brown (age unknown), and the Nocerino sisters, Rose (9) and Jeannette (7). The children were looking at something and praying. Joseph did not see anything. One girl told him to "pray like you mean it". Upon praying the Our Father and/or Hail Mary, a lady appeared. Joseph became greatly unnerved, but the she told him not to be afraid, identifying him as "Joseph", not by his nickname. He calmed down. The lady told him to pray. She also gave the boy a candle, reportedly unseen by the other children. The lady requested him to return to the same place at the same time (7 pm) the next evening. The other children saw the lady but did not hear her speak. Joseph explained his interchange with the lady to the children and rushed back home to tell his parents of the incident. His father, Joseph, Sr., did not believe his son, and proceeded to give him "a slap". In a later report, his mother, Theresa, is quoted: "I didn't know what to say. My Joseph has always been a good boy and goes to church. He never lies to me". Mrs. Vitolo encouraged him to return to the spot. Indeed, Joseph returned and once again the lady allegedly appeared. Joseph began to tremble. At this appearance the lady said she would return to the same location for the next sixteen consecutive nights. [No information was found by this author regarding what happened immediately after Joseph's alleged second encounter on the same day].

Day 2 October 30, 1945 - Hearing about the incident, people in the immediate area attended the site, carrying Rosaries and votive candles. These candles were placed on the ground in the shape of a cross. Passing motorists noticed the gathering of people and stopped to check out this happening near the intersection of the Grand Concourse and Van Cortlandt Avenue in the Bronx. Parishioners at St. Philip Neri Church, located a few blocks to the south on the Grand Concourse, were in attendance. Prayer and prostrating persons at the site were reported. The "sick" were arriving.. It was at this time that someone living nearby the Vitolo residence notified the press of the goings on. For this and remaining nights, at 7:00 pm, Mr. Vitolo stated that he would pray an Our Father, a Hail Mary, a Glory Be... and then Our Lady would allegedly appear (Video 1, 5:23+). To him, it seemed that the appearance of the BVM lasted 5 to 10 minutes per evening (Video 1, 8:37+). However, he further states that observers "clocking" him at 55 to 60+ minutes. Young Joseph was immovable whilst in prayer with the BVM. Many witnesses claimed that that, excepting a center–situated votive candle, the remainder suddenly blew out.

Day 3 October 31, 1945- A small altar was built at the site by Joseph and volunteers during the afternoon. Pilgrims placed votive candles thereon, in the shape of a cross. According to McGreevy, on this evening "Joseph claimed that the lady had asked him if he knew Bernadette; he replied 'no'. Then she told him that Joseph must do as Bernadette did. Some in the crowd 'made no secret of their scepticism' but quieted when, once again, the candles on the ground mysteriously blew out". A newspaper article reports that more than 500 people gathered at the site on this (third) night.

Day 4 November 1, 1945
- According to McGreevy, at "7:00 p.m., a weeping Joseph clambered up the ledge with only his mother, Theresa Vitolo, and a sister, also Theresa". One report said that 3000 persons were in attendance.

Day 5 November 2, 1945 - This evening the makeshift altar was illuminated by 35+ votive candles. Of what transpired, one article relates: "Joseph approached with Robert Porras, 16, by his side. Robert said he intended to study for the Roman Catholic priesthood. Joseph said he saw the vision as he knelt in prayer... He said he asked whether his friend Robert should become a priest. 'She [the lady] said if he will study hard, and go to church and pray and be cleansed of all his sins, he can become a priest... She told me [Joseph] the people should build a church here', he added".The Associated Press further quoted Joseph as saying that "she would be back tomorrow". The apparition allegedly occurred while "persons of all ages, degrees of piety, curiosity and scepticism looked on".

Day 6 November 3, 1945 - "Miracle" claimed by mother of crippled child.

Day 7 November 4, 1945 - No information obtained. Likely, by this time Joseph was being escorted to the shrine site. His cousin, Frank Rufino or his "godfather", would carry him there just before 7 pm. This was because of the requests of the assembling crowds, wanting Joseph to touch them, grabbing pieces of his clothing, cutting off pieces of his hair, and so forth.

Day 8 November 5, 1945
- People from outside New York were making pilgrimages to the shrine. The site was monitored continuously to prevent desecration. At around this date Joseph stopped going to school. From this time onward he was effectively confined at his home, praying over a steady flow of visitors on a daily basis. "Lines of people, mostly sick people or those escorting sick people, squeezed into his family's small dilapidated home on Villa Avenue each evening. Neighbour Joseph Castaldo tried to keep order: 'Only one person can talk to him at a time!... Don't crowd or push – he'll see you all' ". Crowd attendance for this evening was estimated at 8500.

Day 9 November 6, 1945 - No information obtained. However, it was probably at around this date or soonafter that, firstly, Cardinal Spellman dropped by for a visit and, secondly, young Joseph was taken to see Monsignor Sheen at his broadcast studio in Times Square.

Day 10 November 7, 1945 - No information obtained.

Day 11 November 8, 1945 - No information obtained.

Day 12 November 9, 1945 - Attendance estimated at 20,000.

Day 13 November 10, 1945 - No information obtained.

Day 14 November 11, 1945 - No information obtained.

Day 15 November 12, 1945 - No information obtained.

Day 16 November 13, 1945 - And area of four blocks circumscribing the site was monitored by police, blocking traffic therein. The shrine spot itself with cordoned off with ropes. People said the Rosary and sang hymns. The shrine itself now had 200+ candles, hanging Rosaries, with emplacements of flowers and religious statues. "Joseph tossed carnations to members of the crowd. Women suffering from hysteria were pulled from the crowd by police and driven to nearby Fordham Hospital". Crowd attendance was estimated at 15000 to 20000, arriving by foot, cars and buses. "I won't tell you what she [the lady] told me, he [Joseph] shouted at reporters... 'She told me not to tell'. 'Shut–up Jo–Jo', his sister ordered'. Beyond that, the boy refused to talk".

Day 17 November 14, 1945
- Crowd estimates were in the range of 25000 to 30000 for the final night of Our Lady's alleged appearance. People were arriving from Philadelphia, Jersey City and Canada. There was much anticipation, especially because Joseph had said that the BVM promised the occurrence of a miracle. Three accounts of what reportedly eventuated around, at and after 7 pm are now quoted:

"The night began like the previous nights... But the crowd was larger and almost 100 policemen were detailed to handle it. Joseph, led by [Frank] Huffino [name misspelled, should read Rufino], pushed his way to the altar which was decorated by a statue of the Virgin Mary and 56 candles. The crowd sighed as he reached the altar... Joseph began praying. Many echoed his words. A group of girls began singing softly and the rain increased its constant patter. 'He isn't getting wet', someone whispered, and it was passed through the crowd... Then, near the end of his prayers, a photographer used a flash bulb. 'That's when Jo–Jo got mad', Huffino [again, Rufino] said later. 'he didn't like that'... James Sheridan, 44, said 'I'm hard to convince, see. But I saw it. It was there on the side of the building. I saw the virgin's figure, just as plain as anything'. 'Did you see the sky?' asked Mrs. Julie C. Murphy of Manhattan. 'I tell you the clouds just opened up and I saw an angel's head with butterfly wings. Everyone around me saw it. The crowd was in a panic' "

Joseph was again carried to the shrine, this time surrounded by his six brothers and sisters. A priest led the saying of the rosary and several hymns were sung. A steady rain made the view from the apparition site a sea of black umbrellas. Some in the crowd speculated that Joseph was not getting wet. One hundred policemen kept order. The well did not appear, and Joseph denied ever having promised that a well would appear. A break in the rain when he finished praying led to cries of excitement, even as photographs show a more raucous, perhaps skeptical, segment toward the back of the crowd... [Afterward] Joseph returned to his house, and family members refused to let him answer the questions of reporters, although one photographer caught Joseph hurling a bouquet of flowers at a persistent cameraman. Joseph's sister, Theresa, addressed the press after the final evening. She insisted repeatedly that the Virgin had told Joseph: I'm not coming anymore. I did my work and I do not want you to answer any more questions' "

"As elevated trains rattled overhead and photographers' bulbs flashed, 25,000 persons stood praying in the mud of a vacant lot... watching Joseph Vitolo, Jr., pray at an improvised altar on the crest of a bluff... on the sixteenth day, he said she [the lady] was to show him a miracle, perhaps the appearance of a miraculous spring. The crowd saw no miracle but several invalids claimed their condition had suddenly improved... 'Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee...' chanted the swaying crowd in unison. The boy knelt before his altar... 'Look, look,' spread a rumor through the lot. 'He is not getting wet. The rain does not touch him'. But those who were closest could see the rain glistening on his dark hair and new blue sweater as he knelt in the mud... Yes, he said, he had seen the Blessed Virgin again."

Video Interview - This interview of Mr. Vitolo (in 2003, he was 66 years old at the time), was conducted by Paula Gloria (Tsakona) of The Concordia Foundation. Some internet searching evidenced that, despite her enchanting voice, Ms. Georgia is the principal questioner. Occasionally you will hear a male voice posing questions. Both interviewers are off–screen. The interview is to be found on YouTube, in two parts, each lasting approximately 30 minutes. Video and audio is subgrade quality in some parts. Audio loss occurs for approximately two minutes in Video 1 (between 9:44 and 11:21). Summaries for Videos 1 and 2 are respectively in the notes below for any reader unable to spend a full hour watching.

Reported Apperance of BVM - According to the video interview, Mr. Vitolo states that Our Lady appeared "very human" (Video 1, 5:23+). Her height was, allegedly, not much taller than his (as a boy), about 5 feet.

Clothing/Apparel - She was dressed in blue at her first appearance (October 29). But later, following a specific question on the matter, he states that that she also wore pink and black (Video 1, 22:40+). The McGreevy article [31, p. 406], indicates somewhat differently, attesting that she "dressed first in white, then in blue, then in black". When young Joseph returned to the rock ledge for the second time on the first evening (on the insistence of his mother), Our Lady was said to be holding a batch white roses and wearing a crown. Nonetheless, Mr. Vitolo states she wore a different color every night. One report, referring to the third or fourth night of the alleged apparitions, indicates that the "vision was not dressed in white with a rose on her breast as she had been the other nights, Joseph said, but 'she wore a pink gown, had a gold crown on her head and red shoes trimmed with gold on her feet' ". Regarding the last night, a newspaper quotes young Joseph as saying: "She had lots of stars around her head... and she was dressed all in blue". However, in the video interview Mr. Vitolo is quite insistent that, on the last night of her reported appearance (November 14), Our Lady wore all white with a gold Star of David. It is this image on the last night – emphasized by Mr. Vitolo – by which Our Lady wished to be remembered. This likeness is rendered in the painting situated behind Mr. Vitolo in the video interview.

Voice - Mr. Vitolo is almost at a loss for words in characterizing her voice, i.e. "it was so beautiful, I couldn't describe it", more at it sounded like "music from heaven" (Video 1:, 22:40+). Recall that young Joseph was afraid when he first saw the lady but, after hearing her voice, "ìt calmed me down".

Olfactory -
Mr. Vitolo also indicates a pleasing odour when the BVM was present, a "beautiful smell", acknowledging the word "perfume" as a descriptor (Video 2, 21:20+).

"Our Lady of The Universe" Painting- The artist who painted this image, from Connecticut, was retained by Fr. John Santyr, the priest who later married Joseph and his wife, Grace. Joseph reported that, in 1945, a Jewish woman , after receiving "some kind of grace", left a statute of Our Lady with a gold Star of David on its chest. Joseph said that was how the BVM appeared on the final night and asked that the painting be rendered as such. In 1996 the painting was meticulously examined as there were claims its colors had "shifted".

Note - This is the painting seen behind Mr. Vitolo in the video interview. Now known as "Our Lady of the Universe", the title "Our Lady of the Concourse" was originally conferred right after 1945. This is because the BVM reportedly appeared adjacent to the Grand Concourse roadway. Notice the emanating Star of David and the gold band around Our Lady's head.

Reported Messages/words Spoken - According to Mr. Vitolo (Video 1, 5:23+ / Video 2, 29:29+), the main message the BVM communicated was to say the Rosary and pray "for peace in the world". When the sound returns at 11:21 in Video 1 (audio loss begins at 9:44), we hear Mr. Vitolo saying that, for the first 4 or 5 nights, the BVM answered requests by pilgrims. The video is unclear (because only the tail end of the conversation is captured), but it seems as though Joseph was given envelopes with questions latterly submitted to the BVM, that she allegedly answered. Other than those abovementioned newspaper quotations attributed to the BVM (relayed by young Joseph), no other message was found by the author.

The Missing Bead - In the video interview, Mr. Vitolo makes reference to an enigmatic statement that Our Lady allegedly voiced to him (see Video 2, 21:51+). For the record, TH2 has transcribed this exchange on the most mysterious episode associated with the alleged apparitions:

Mr. Vitolo: ...and the bead is still there.

Male Questioner: Well, talk about that. What happened?

Mr. Vitolo: Our Lady's beads broke one of the nights there...

Male Questioner: Well, talk about before... what did she have... [inaudible]

Mr. Vitolo: Well, not rosary beads. They... they were blue, blue beads.

Male Questioner: So she appeared with the rosary. [error, Mr. Vitolo did not say this]

Mr. Vitolo: They were blue. They weren't white. They were blue beads... and the beads broke. I couldn't... I couldn't move. I must of... stopped me for some reason... and, ah, Our Lady stooped down, picked up all her beads, and she says to me: "One bead", she says, "Joseph, we can't find".

Paula Gloria: She said... she said that to you?

Mr. Vitolo: One bead... Scholars, priests... all these people... they tried to figure out what that meant.

Male Questioner: Like she purposely left it there, huh? Right?

Mr. Vitolo: [Acknowledges]... and then when she left the last night, she didn't say goodbye. She just left like she was coming back the next time. So I feel that she might come back. She might come back get that bead. Maybe I'm the bead. She's going to come and... I don't know.

Now immediately does this question comes to the fore: Were the beads mistakenly broken or were they broken intentionally? If the former, then it implies that Our Lady had "fumbled" in some way – but this would be beneath the immense grace and dignity of the BVM. Definitely, if this was the case it would be a blaring red flag indicating that something was rotten in Denmark. If the latter, if the beads were purposefully "broke" for a reason – then the alleged comment made by Our Lady would require further inquiry. Still, it would not necessarily authenticate the apparitions per se as divine or even, speculatively speaking, demonical. What is confusing is that Mr. Vitolo said that the beads "broke", but this statement infers that the beads were somehow interlinked, as in a Rosary. But Mr. Vitolo states that they were not Rosary beads. If they were not connected, then how can a bead or beads "break"? I have found no further information on this episode. Rather than just reading the exchange as quoted above, readers would gain greater appreciation by viewing this segment, discern and then judge for themselves.

Reported Cures
Various cures and healings were claimed during the period of the reported apparitions. Sporadic mentions are given in newspaper articles. However, no medical confirmations or other information was found by the author to authenticate these claims. It is interesting to note that Mr. Vitolo claims that Our Lady gave him two "gifts": healing by touch and the ability to tell the "personality" of someone by looking at them (Video 2, 19:14+). He further claims that she gave him a Miraculous Medal that cured others but, over time, got lost in the "shuffle" (Video 2, 3:01+).

The Padre Pio Connection - Mr. Vitolo's wife Grace was from Boston (now deceased). She first came to know Joseph in 1961, but in the few years previous she learned about a certain Italian priest named Padre Pio (Francesco Forgione, 1887–1968), now a world famous saint (canonized in 1999). Grace began writing letters weekly to the saint. She was aware that Pio never read these many letters, however one of his assistants did, and invited her to Italy. Grace went for 3 months and managed to get confession from Padre Pio three times. During one confession, Padre Pio reportedly said to her that the name of her future husband would start with the letter J. In the video interview (Video 2, 16:23+), Mr. Vitolo said that, instead, Padre Pio said "Joe".

Credibility of Mr. Vitolo - From all the information that TH2 has examined, Mr. Vitolo appears to be a good and loyal Catholic. He loves Our Lord and Our Lady, respects the Pope, he prefers Holy Communion on the tongue, he prays the Rosary at 4:30 am every day at the Shrine, he works in a hospital and helps people, and, despite the difficulties of his life, is very accepting (even jovial) about his circumstance. In Video 2 at 26:10+, he says: "I got nothing nothing nothing". When asked: "How could life be better for you now?", he answers: "It's too late", and then laughs. One other important point to mention: Mr. Vitolo/The Shrine "do NOT accept nor solicit financial donations". This has always been the case since 1945.

October 29, 1945 at age 9 Joseph Vitolo witnessed the Virgin Mary hovering over a spot where a shrine is now. The story is know as the Bronx Miracle. Our Lady of the Universe shrine entrance is at 3191 Grand Concourse, Bronx, NY 10468.